Soldiers’ Wives waving Farewell, 2nd version, 1937/1938 

Bronze, 322 (h) 273.5 (w) 156 (d) mm, Seeler 32 I.B.1.2.

Käthe Kollwitz, Soldiers’ Wives waving Farewell, 2nd version, 1937/1938, bronze, Seeler 32 I.B.2., Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

After finishing her large-scale group »Mother with two Children« in 1936, Käthe Kollwitz began focussing on smaller works. In a letter of 6 May 1937 to a young friend she wrote that this was »not as pleasing, but adapted to my reduced strength and my extremely low income«. In connection with this new field of work she regards it as a particular challenge to »maintain the overall outline while being precise in the details.«

Käthe Kollwitz, Soldiers’ Wives waving Farewell, 1st version, 1935 (?)-1936, clay, Seeler 31, historical photograph by Bruno Schuch, Berlin Charlottenburg
Käthe Kollwitz, Soldiers’ Wives waving Farewell,
1st version, 1935 (?)-1936, clay, Seeler 31,
historical photograph by Bruno Schuch,
Berlin Charlottenburg

Her first endeavour to create works on this scale was probably in late 1935, or in early 1936 at the latest when she made a group of women and children waving goodbye to soldiers on a departing train. The group worked in clay is only documented as a photograph. As some of the women and the children in the early version resemble those in the second version presented here, it is to be assumed that the artist cut some areas out of the clay model and replaced it with a new design. The final version thus emerges from the earlier one.

Despite the reduced detailing of the various different physiognomies, the artist succeeded in producing an impressive representation of emotional states such as insecurity, fear and the pain of parting. A very modern conceptual feature of the group is the fact that it thematises the perception of the viewer as the sculpture is to be regarded from the point of view of the departing men in which those left behind recede to gradually turn into mere silhouettes. The figures become gradually less detailed the further they are placed in the background.

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